Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Duke Energy feels heat of protesters

Helmeted police on bicycles outnumbered the protesters in front of the Knight Theater Wednesday but the group demonstrating against Duke Energy still managed to put the Charlotte utility in an uncomfortable spotlight again.

Duke is still reeling from a public shellacking in North Carolina for how it handled its merger with Progress Energy. It fired Progress CEO Bill Johnson, who was set to head the merged company, barely twenty minutes after the merger became official this summer. N.C. regulators who had to approve the merger felt deceived by the action.
Wednesday's protests were more political in nature. Duke is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC. It bills itself as nonpartisan but has endorsed and been providing state legislatures and lawmakers with a template of conservative policies, some of them quite controversial such as "Stand Your Ground" gun laws and voter ID legislation which some view as voter suppression schemes. That has prompted a lot of activists to call on companies to drop their membership.

Duke Energy is a prime target, especially during the Democratic National Convention this week. Duke's chief executive Jim Rogers played a big role in getting the DNC here and Duke has underwritten some of the convention and provided the DNC with a huge line of credit.

So it was no surprise that activists cornered Rogers this week and reportedly tried to get him to pledge that Duke would drop its membership. Rogers reportedly told Whit Jones of the Energy Action Coalition that "he'd be listening," when Jones asked if he'd listen to the 100,000 who've allegedly signed petitions for Duke to drop its ALEC ties. When pressed for a firm commitment to drop ALEC Rogers reportedly said "I'm not going to give you [a commitment right now] but you can trust that I'm paying attention to what you're saying, and you'll know in due time."

The activists are putting on a full court press, getting Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to say he would urge Duke to “get out of ALEC ASAP.”

Other members of Congress apparently are urging the same. Duke is in an embarrassing spot. The activists gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Knight Theater made sure they felt the heat Wednesday.


Skippy said...

These dopes do know that Duke is bed with President BoFA Stadium, dont' they? Not.

Anonymous said...

I'm really growing weary of this paper's "reporting" of my employer and I'm going to call you out. (DISCLAIMER: I'm a rank-and-file employee not working in PR and am speaking my own mind, not as a company spokesperson.)

Observer, you really need to check yourself. Your constant determination to find any dirt on Duke Energy is ridiculous. It's been ridiculous ever since Jim Morrill was on his personal cruisade to prove that there was something illegal, immoral or unethical about Pat McCrory being an employee of Duke while also being the mayor. (So where are the articles questioning Anthony Foxx's private sector employment? Oh, yeah, that's right - McCrory is a Republican, so by definition he's a criminal, and Foxx is a Democrat, so by definition he is perfect, flawless man, the second coming of J.C.)

I have had all I can stand of hyperbolic statements like "reeling from a public shellacking" and the like. Why is no one, especially from the Charlotte and Raleigh papers, questioning the Utilities Commission about their personal ties to Raleigh and Bill Johnson? All 7 of the commissioners are either former colleagues or golfing buddies of Johnson. All 7 of them are permanent Raleigh residents, with all of the normal "I hate Charlotte and will do anything to destroy it" inferiority complex you find in all business leaders and politicians in Raleigh and everywhere east of it. The "public shellacking" is nothing more than a bunch of Johnson golfing buddies from Raleigh grinding their personal axes because they don't like how their buddy was treated. Not one second of those hearings was about the customers or the merits of the merger; it was all about 7 people going for the head of someone they thought wronged their buddy.

How thrilled would you be, Observer, if the commission got what they really wanted? That would be for Progress to buy Duke, make Johnson the CEO and eliminate virtually all jobs in Charlotte and move everyone to Raleigh? That would be worse for Charlotte than the fall of Wachovia. You need to get over your irrational hatred of Duke Energy and be glad the company is here. You need to do the same with your irrational hatred of Bank of America. If Duke and B of A vanished, Charlotte becomes about as nationally relevant as Cookeville, Tennessee. Sound good to you?